Jonathan Edwards and the Enlightenment: Free Will and Conversion

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Week Two
June 12-16
9:00 - 11:30

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Jonathan Edwards’ relationship with the Enlightenment of the eighteenth century is traditionally viewed as conflicted, condemning many of its aspects and viewing them as antithetical to Christianity. Yet, he embraced many Enlightenment figures and ideas. As part of the ongoing general reassessment of the Enlightenment that stresses the religious nature of the movement, this course, through primary readings by Edwards and contemporary writers and through interpretive literature, will look at Edwards’ thought on a key Enlightenment topic: the nature of the human self, particularly the nature of the will. We will look at how Edwards’ context, the specific challenges he faced, shaped the solutions at which he arrived. Along the way we will consider the debate over whether Edwards, in his formulation of the will, departed from or stayed within Reformed orthodox strictures.


Paul Helm was educated at Worcester College, Oxford, and taught philosophy at the University of Liverpool for nearly thirty years. He was Professor of the History and Philosophy of Religion at King’s College, London, 1993-2000, and has taught subsequently at Regent College and other places. Among his books are Eternal God, (OUP, 2010, 2nd edn.), John Calvin’s Ideas (OUP, 2004), and Belief Policies (CUP 1993). He has also written articles and chapters on Edwards for over 40 years.

Kenneth P. Minkema is the Executive Editor of The Works of Jonathan Edwards and of the Jonathan Edwards Center and Works Online, with nearly thirty years of experience working on Edwards, and is a Research Scholar at Yale University. From 2004-9, he served as the Executive Secretary of the American Society of Church History. Besides publishing numerous articles on Edwards and related topics in professional journals, he has edited The Works of Jonathan Edwards, volume 14, Sermons and Discourses: 1723-1729, and is the co-editor of A Jonathan Edwards Reader, The Sermons of Jonathan Edwards: A Reader, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God: A Casebook, and Jonathan Edwards in Scotland. Dr. Minkema, in conjunction with a small team of part-time student assistants over the years, has transcribed and proofread much of the current archive, and has edited or assisted in editing most of the primary texts by Edwards published since 1989.

Adriaan Neele (PhD, University of Utrecht) serves since 2007 as Consulting Editor and Digital Editor at the Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale University. In addition, he is co-editor of the Jonathan Edwards Online journal, co-editor of the Jonathan Edwards Encyclopedia, and co-editor of the global Edwards sermon edition project. His research interests concern seventeenth-century Europe as well as early American (eighteenth-century New England) theology and philosophy.

Yale Divinity School

Ken Minkema

Adrian Neele

Paul Helm